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Aid denied to Myanmar displaced

Humanitarian relief restrictions remain despite a ceasefire with secessionist rebels

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Aid denied to Myanmar displaced

Myanmar police standing guard in 2017 at an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Sittwe, Rakhine State.
(AFP photo)

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Despite a current relative calm in conflict-torn northern Myanmar, aid groups are still being blocked from assisting tens of thousands of dislocated people.

Others receive some assistance from international and local humanitarian organizations, but stricter travel and other conditions are being imposed on them.

More than 120,00 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been living in camps in Kachin and Northern Shan states since 2011 when a 17-year ceasefire broke down.

A four-month military ceasefire was on April 30 extended until the end of June and then again renewed until Aug. 31.

Fighting has plagued this mountainous northern region since Myanmar gained independence from Britain in 1948. Most of Kachin’s 1.7-million population identify as being Christian, including an estimated 116,000 Catholics.

There are 169 camps in Kachin and Northern Shan states of which 37 percent are in areas beyond government control.

Aid workers say life in the camps generally is not improving because of the government's attitude.

Gum Sha Awng, spokesperson for the Joint Strategy Team, an alliance of nine humanitarian outfits, welcomed the cessation of clashes in recent months but bemoaned setbacks in aid delivery.

Officials from the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) have been threatened with prosecution for going to Kachin Independence Army (KIA) controlled camps near China to provide relief supplies.

United Nations personnel and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been officially banned from traveling to these locations since 2016.

Food and shelter as well as educational opportunities are lacking.

Some Faith-based groups and local NGOs have resorted to clandestine humanitarian missions, but there is still clearly a substantial shortfall.

Since January 2018, there have been 30 applications by the U.N. to deliver aid to IDPs in these remote areas, but none of the applications have been approved.

Even access to IDPs in so-called 'government controlled areas' continues to decline.

Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations human rights' chief, told the U.N. Human Rights Council on June 24 that Myanmar Government restrictions mean at least 95,000 people have been cut off from life-saving assistance.

The Myanmar military's recent unilateral ceasefires have excluded Rakhine State, where a bloody crackdown by the army in August 2017 drove more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to neighboring Bangladesh.

More than 100,000 Rohingya remain in camps in central Rakhine in what have been branded as “apartheid-like” conditions.

Their freedom of movement and access to healthcare and education have been severely restricted since 2012 violence left more than 200 people dead.

Military clashes with the largely Buddhist Arakan Army in Rakhine have displaced more than 35,000 people.

The U.N. office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) on May 11 said access procedures to various camps are highly bureaucratic, requiring the submission of detailed paperwork.

Save the Children and Oxfam have called for domestic and international aid groups to be granted rapid, unfettered and sustained access to all affected populations.

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